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Talks Between Russia-Syrian Factions on Aleppo… Opposition: Iran Seeks to Foil Deal | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A civilian collects tree branches amid the rubble of a damaged site in the rebel-held besieged Qadi Askar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria on Nov. 24/ Reuters Abdalrhman Ismail

Beirut-The U.N. announced on Thursday that the Syrian opposition accepted a plan for aid delivery and medical evacuations from the besieged neighborhoods of eastern Aleppo, but was still waiting for the green light of Russia and the Syrian regime.

In Ankara, meetings kicked off between leaders from opposition factions operating in Aleppo and Russian officials to discuss a “Turkish-Russian” plan on “an autonomous zone in the neighborhoods of East Aleppo.”

The Syrian regime had already rejected the proposal, while reports hinted that Russia could accept it.

Amid an attempt to reach a truce in Aleppo, the U.N. denied on Thursday rumors about the resignation of its envoy to Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura,

It said in a statement received by Asharq Al-Awsat: “Media reports that Special Envoy de Mistura is resigning his post are not accurate. The Special Envoy remains fully engaged in his mission.”

Member of the Free Syrian Army military council Rami Dalati told Asharq Al-Awsat that Tehran seeks to foil any attempt to reach an agreement on Aleppo.

Dalati, who attended the meetings in Ankara between Turkish and Russian officials said: “There are Russian-Turkish attempts to reach a truce in Aleppo. However, Iran is exerting efforts to prevent an agreement.”

In Geneva, U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said Syrian opposition armed forces in besieged East Aleppo have agreed to a plan for aid delivery and medical evacuations, but are waiting for Russia and the Syrian regime to agree to the proposal.

When asked whether the U.N. has a substitute plan, Egeland said: “In many ways, plan B is that people starve — and can we allow that to happen? No, we cannot allow it to happen.”

Meanwhile, Brigadier General Asaad Al-Zoghby, the head of the High Negotiations Committee (NHC) at the Geneva Talks told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We never opposed the delivery of aid, on the contrary, this issue remains one of our leading concerns. However, the problem is always with the regime and its allies.”

Al-Zoghby added: “Who had attacked a humanitarian convoy that was heading to Aleppo? Our experience with previous truces taught us that the regime uses the ceasefire to achieve military targets.”

Al-Zoghby said the opposition asks for a real truce that is respected by all parties with the presence of a monitoring body to punish any party that violates it.

Asked about the latest “Turkish-Russian” initiative to save Aleppo and whether the U.N. efforts to deliver aid was a step towards implementing de Mistura’s proposal to establish a “self-administrative zone” in Aleppo, Al-Zoghby said: “The problem lies in the fact that every time there are talks about a truce, including the latest proposal of an autonomous zone, the opposition is left behind rather than being a major component of any agreement.”

Last week, de Mistura suggested the establishment of an autonomous region in East Aleppo after the withdrawal of Fatah al-Sham fighters.

However, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Damascus completely rejected the proposal describing it as a violation of Syria’s sovereignty.

Meanwhile, National Coalition member Hisham Mroueh said details for establishing an autonomous region were still vague. Mroueh told Asharq Al-Awsat that an autonomous zone could carry several explanations, some of which could not be implemented. “Many parties see in this proposal a prelude for division or for placing conditions on the opposition, similar to what happened in Damascus countryside, where residents were forced to leave,” he said.

On Thursday, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said dozens of civilians tried to flee but were stopped from escaping because of fighting.

“But when the civilians tried to cross to the other side, gunfire broke out,” Syrian Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Last Tuesday, the Syrian regime accused opposition factions of preventing people from leaving the besieged areas and of holding civilians as “hostages”.

“This has nothing to do with reality,” said Yasser al-Youssef, from the political office of the Nureddin al-Zinki rebel group. “The regime is spreading rumors to try to undermine the resolve of the rebels and those who support them in Aleppo.”